I Am A Hyphenated American, But My Race And Ethnicity Are Not Mutually Exclusive

I Am A Hyphenated American, But My Race And Ethnicity Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Being a hyphenated American means that I am entirely both, not that I am half of each.

Kassy Mendoza

Hi, I am Kassy and I am a Filipino-American.

Apparently, I am pretty, what many would say, "racially ambiguous" because a question I get all too often is: *insert puzzled expression and tilt of the head*

"What are you?"

I have answered this question many different ways over my years, (ie: "an alien", "a human", "hungry") but I always knew what this meant and still to this day choose to answer the real question.

"What makes you brown?"

My answer is simple, I am half-Filipino. I am proud to tell people I am Filipino. My dad immigrated here before he even turned one, met my mom, and -- tada-- here I am.

One day, after answering this question for the millionth time, someone told me, "no, you are an American." This shocked me. I had never had anyone challenge me on this before, but then I got to thinking. The next time somebody asked me "what are you?"

I responded, "American."

Some people I told this to continued to say, "oh no like what are you like where did you come from." I said, "Seattle." This person got frustrated with me and dropped the question.

Another person I said this to was angry.

"How dare you take away and forget your culture and where you came from!"

Obviously, neither of these answers made anyone happy.

I got to thinking well I can say I'm Filipino-American. That should be okay, right? So, I tried that next the next time somebody asked me I said:

"I'm Filipino-American."

I got a couple of different responses to this some said, "well, of course, you're American! I just wanted to know what your ethnicity was!" this brings us back to the whole "what makes you brown?" question.

Another time I said this, someone told me, "we need to get rid of this hyphenated American b*******. If when you are a citizen, then you need to leave all the other stuff behind. You are just an American now. If not, get out."

I left this conversation angry.

I'm proud when I say I'm Filipino, so why would I stop telling people? I was left puzzled what was I supposed to do? When someone asks me "what are you?", no one would accept any of my answers.

I'm Filipino American.

Neither word, on either side of the hyphen, takes away from the other.

I think people forget that race, nationality, and ethnicity are all different things.

A race is a group of people descended from a common ancestor.

Nationality is the status of belonging to a particular nation.

Ethnicity is the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.

Race = ancestry.

Nationality = citizenship or residency.

Ethnicity = culture.

Because all these things are different, my ethnicity is Filipino, and Italian and Norwegian and many other things for that matter, and that doesn't take away from the fact that I am a US citizen that I am an American.

I was raised in America. I've spent 20 years of my life living and breathing in the United States and I've never lived anywhere else. There's no denying that I am an American citizen. I also have a rich culture that has been passed down to me and I love and embrace it.

I will never understand why people have come to see the world in strict binaries. Like I said, my ethnicity does not take away from my nationality or vice-versa. They are not mutually exclusive. I don't have to be one or the other.

The little girl in that taco shell commercial said it best:

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